Five things we’ve learned about the Twins in 2018

The 2018 Twins season has largely been a disappointment, but even in disappointment (or perhaps especially so) there are things to be learned.

So here are five things we’ve learned about the Twins this year:

1) The franchise will go nowhere without major contributions from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. This one is fairly obvious, and it’s clearly one learned from disappointment. Between injuries and performance regressions, it could not have been a worse year (so far) for the Twins and their two long-promised future stars.

Sano was an All-Star in 2017 before a leg injury derailed his season. This year went so poorly that it included a long stint in the minor leagues. Buxton hit .156 this year between injuries after a blistering two-month stretch to finish 2017 helped the Twins reach the postseason and raised expectations for this season.

Neither approached even minimum expectations this year. For the Twins to contend for a wild card spot, they need reasonable production from both. To become a real contender, they need both to approach stardom. If 2018 was an indication of what is to come, the Twins are in big trouble.

2) Eddie Rosario is legitimate. He had a much-improved second half in 2016, a breakout year in 2017 and a nearly identical 2018 to-date. That’s two-and-a-half years of evidence suggesting that Rosario is a cornerstone player for this franchise. He might not have the raw power of Sano or the flash of Buxton, but he’s been the most dependable — by far — of the young Twins hitters.

3) The next wave of Twins starting pitching is not ready yet. The good news is Jose Berrios built on a nice 2017 season with a similar (and in some ways even better) 2018 season. The bad news? The rest of the Twins’ young future starting pitchers have work to do.

Fernando Romero had a 1.88 ERA through five starts, but he posted a 7.67 ERA in his next six as teams figured him out. Stephen Gonsalves and Kohl Stewart have struggled when given chances.

That’s not particularly surprising. Berrios had an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts in 2016 while getting his feet wet and was much better the second go-around. But if the Twins are counting on Romero and/or Gonsalves for 2019 contributions, the hope will rest on a similar transformation.

4) The defense needs an upgrade. The Twins were awful defensively on 2016, and turning that into a strength in 2017 was part of the reason for their turnaround. They were plus-14.1 in defensive runs saved last season (per FanGraphs), but this year they’re slightly below average at minus-1.2. Part of is the Buxton effect. Overall it’s another area that slipped this season.

5) We haven’t learned enough. Maybe this is a cop out on a list of things we’ve learned, but I think it’s meaningful. The Twins have cycled through a lot of players this season, many of whom figure to be marginal or complete non-contributors beyond this season.

There are precious few dependable contributors on the roster, but there also not a lot of players the Twins should flat-out give up on. There are a lot of OK players, reflective of an organization that didn’t bottom out in 2018 but at best was stuck in neutral without a clear path forward.

Urban Meyer keeps digging a bigger hole at Ohio State

Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where it is always responsible to call before you dig. Let’s get to it:

*Suspended Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer surfaced again on Twitter Friday morning, this time to complain about how his suspension is being covered.

Essentially, Meyer wants everyone to pay attention to the parts of the investigation into how he handled assistant coach Zach Smith and accusations of domestic violence that made Meyer look good (or at least less bad) and ignore the parts that didn’t make him look good (you know, the parts that led to his three-game suspension and led many others to say he should have been punished more severely).

And he would really like it if we would just accept Ohio State’s findings at face value and not think more critically about the overall facts of the case.

This has become standard for Meyer, who has released three statements on Twitter in the last month, each attempting to either clarify, apologize or retroactively contextualize parts of the story. That’s fine and his prerogative, but also let’s say this:

In doing so, Meyer comes off as someone who can’t stand not being in control of the narrative. As Awful Announcing succinctly said, “Some college coaches are so used to having complete control and authority they struggle when confronted with a reality they can’t govern.

Instead of considering himself lucky that he wasn’t fired and maybe learning something meaningful from all of this, Meyer instead seems focused on his brand and reputation. Maybe from inside his circle, which contains countless Buckeyes fans who still support him, this seems like the right thing to do.

From the outside, it looks like Twitter is Meyer’s shovel, and his words are a hole he is digging that keeps getting deeper.

*The news was better Thursday than it had been lately for the Vikings’ special teams. Daniel Carlson made both his field goal attempts and an extra point, while Holton Hill had a 53-yard kickoff return. But punter Ryan Quigley had a kick partially blocked, leaving room for continued concern.

Special teams have been an underrated area of strength for the Vikings despite some kicking woes in recent years. They’ve generally covered kicks well and have made impact plays in the return game, creating valuable field position edges. Pro Football Focus ranked them the No. 1 overall special teams unit in 2017, and they’ve been in the top 10 each of the past three season.

Any regression there is a sneaky thing that could undermine this season, while continued success could give the Vikings three well above-average units. It bears watching as the season goes on.

*Here are some of the thoughtful words from Larry Fitzgerald, who spoke at the memorial for John McCain:

Report: Actual Gophers football crowds were two-thirds the size of announced crowds in 2017

The Star Tribune’s Rachel Blount gave an important look at the challenges facing the Gophers athletic department recently with her detailed story on budget woes in revenue sports.

Among the biggest revelations: revenue from Gophers football ticket sales declined by 28.8 percent between 2014 and 2017.

Attendance woes caused by multiple factors are at the heart of the revenue decline, and the Gophers are hardly alone in the struggle.

On the heels of that good work — just in time for the college football season, which the Gophers were set to kick off Thursday with a home game against New Mexico State — comes another important story.

This one is from the Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman and illustrates an attendance discrepancy for the Gophers and their college football brethren.

In it, the WSJ compiled a large data set from 96 college football programs in 2017 and compared their announced attendances to actual figures shown by ticket scanners. (Link here, but subscription required).

If you weren’t aware, it is common practice for teams in both college and pro sports to use tickets sold (or distributed) as their attendance measure instead of actual butts in seats — a large part of the reason you see “announced attendance” as part of the Star Tribune’s boilerplate language in game stories when describing crowd size.

And if you’ve ever wondered how the actual crowd size compares to what teams announce, Bachman’s story gives you a pretty clear picture of how it is in college football.

The opening paragraph of the story focuses on the Gophers’ rout of Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium in 2017, when Minnesota announced a crowd of 39,933. Data requested and obtained by the Journal shows only 25,493 tickets were actually counted. (Photo above of Demry Croft rushing for a first down during the Gophers’ 54-21 victory).

For the season, the Gophers announced 310,506 fans for their seven home games, an average of a little more than 44,000 per game. Their tickets counted were 210,900 — about 14,000 less per game and an average of about 30,000. About one of every three tickets distributed were not counted as coming through the gates. There could be some human or technological errors involved in compiling the tickets counted figure — as some schools suggested — but that’s still a significant gap.

It’s important here to note that this is not unique to the Gophers; they were just one example used to illustrate the issue. Of the 11 Big Ten schools for which there was data, four — Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois and Maryland — had a larger gap than Minnesota, by percentage, between announced crowd and actual tickets counted. Wisconsin had the smallest gap, with its actual attendance coming in at almost 85 percent of its announced attendance.

It also should be noted that some context is missing. It would be helpful to know, for instance, if the gap between announced crowds and actual crowds has increased from previous years — which would potentially indicate more no-shows and perhaps more problems ahead. But the data is for just the 2017 season.

Still, it’s good data and it very well could be reflective of the challenges programs face to get actual fans in the stands while competing with readily available games on TV and other factors.

Per the story: “Attendance drives recruiting, attendance drives donations, merchandise sales,”Rob Sine, who until earlier this year was president of IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions, which works with dozens of colleges. If fans don’t use their tickets, he added, “they’re more likely to not come back.”

Bridgewater trade is a win for everybody — except Teddy

The Jets traded former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints on Wednesday in a deal that made a certain amount of sense for both teams.

New York received a third-round pick (and sent back a sixth-rounder along with Bridgewater), a nice haul for a player in whom the Jets had minimal investment. The Jets also cleared up a crowded QB picture in the process, with rookie Sam Darnold now reportedly slated to start while veteran Josh McCown backs him up.

The motive for the Saints was more or less insurance. They obviously didn’t feel comfortable with Tom Savage as the primary backup to 39-year-old Drew Brees in a season where New Orleans has high hopes. Bridgewater is an upgrade, even if a third-round pick is a reasonably steep price to pay.

I have seen it posited that the deal was win-win-win, with Bridgewater being the third part of that triumph triangle. The wisdom was summed up in this tweet by Peter King:

Teddy should be thrilled. No idea if he ends up long-term with Saints — and likely he doesn’t. But this is a perfect place for him for this year. Allows him to advance his game with a really smart offensive mind. Working with Brees is great for him too.

With due respect to King and everyone else espousing a similar sentiment, I very much disagree.

The best thing for Bridgewater this season is to play, and the best thing that could have happened to him — as crass as this sounds — is that a team would have lost its starting QB sometime during the preseason and the Jets would have traded Teddy to that team.

That didn’t materialize, and the Jets clearly felt they couldn’t wait forever. They tried to maximize value as best they could, and they made a trade that was in their best interests. But it was far from Bridgewater’s best interests.

Bridgewater’s last meaningful NFL action — I don’t count the 2016 preseason and I don’t count last year’s brief mop-up duty in which he threw two passes — was in the playoff loss to Seattle after the 2015 season.

He’s now headed to a team that has a clearly established Hall of Fame starter who, even at age 39, has shown no signs of slowing down and who has missed exactly two starts in 12 seasons with the Saints.

There is a very good chance Bridgewater, who turns 26 in November and should be entering the prime of his career, won’t see any meaningful action for a third consecutive season.

I don’t have hard data on quarterbacks who have gone three full seasons in the middle of their careers without playing a meaningful down who have then gone on to do big things as a starter, but I can’t imagine there are many of them.

This is different than a drafted QB sitting behind a starter as an understudy (as Aaron Rodgers did for three years in Green Bay behind Brett Favre). That was truly about development (and Favre’s continued comebacks). There were no questions about Rodgers’ health.

Bridgewater needs to know where he stands, not continue to sit. Another year on the sidelines is the last thing he needs, but it’s probably what he’s going to get as a result of a win-win-lose trade.

Timberwolves bringing back classic ‘tree’ uniforms this season

Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where everything form the 1990s is suddenly back in style. Let’s get to it:

*The Timberwolves made big changes to their uniforms last season, but they perhaps made an even more notable move this year: they are bringing back the vintage Kevin Garnett-era “tree” uniforms this season for select games. They’ll make their debut on Halloween against the Jazz, and the Wolves will wear them four other times.

Now: When I did my rankings of past Wolves jerseys last season, the tree design was my least favorite of the four. But I also understand the powerful tug of nostalgia. Before last season, the Wolves had never made the playoffs wearing any other jersey except the trees.

If the Wolves REALLY want to do folks a solid, they will bring back the original franchise jerseys. This is, after all, their 30th season in existence. Maybe next year?

*This week’s Access Vikings podcast is an abbreviated effort from Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer because a production error wiped out the original one the three of us recorded.

The most intriguing reader question came via Tim Snell, who wondered: “You’ve got to put $100 down on whether Carlson is the kicker week 17. Which way are you going?”

All three of us wavered before ultimately deciding Daniel Carlson will make it through the season. I don’t expect him to have a great rookie year, but I think he’ll be good enough to keep his job. Would i feel the same way if the Vikings didn’t invest a fifth-round pick in him? Maybe not, which is too bad because that shouldn’t be an overwhelming factor.

In any event, if you’re going to watch anything in Thursday’s final preseason game at Tennessee, watch Carlson and the rest of the special teams.

*The Astros were celebrating a walk-off home run Wednesday, but the most heads-up play came from the Tony Kemp. Watch him swat away a bucket that might have hit Justin Verlander in the head.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins confirms he turned down $90 million from Jets

It’s been almost six months since Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings in free agency, so when a 14-minute “NFL Life” video on Cousins’ path to Minnesota showed up on the Vikings’ web site recently there was natural skepticism that it contained much of value.

Turns out I watched every second. And it turns out there was plenty of value to learn even six months after the fact.

The episode basically chronicles the handful of days leading up to the official start of free agency in March, taking viewers right up to the time that Cousins is officially introduced as the new Vikings’ quarterback.

Of particular note:

*We get an inside glimpse into negotiations, but we also see Cousins doing Google searches of teams and their offensive coaches before free agency officially begins.

At one point, Cousins is on the phone with agent Mike McCartney. He finishes the call and tells his wife, Julie, “The Jets came up to 30. Fully guaranteed, three-year deal.”

She’s looking at him saying, “Whoa …”

Cousins continues. “Now we have what we wanted. … (McCartney) has to do the same thing with the Vikings. He’s got to get them from 25 to a number that is competitive with the Jets’ offer. But the fact that we have the Jets offer is huge. Now it gives the other teams a reason to come up.”

This is confirmation of a report out of New York in March that the Jets did, indeed, offer Cousins $90 million (three years at $30 million each) fully guaranteed. The Vikings apparently started at $25 million per year, but they upped the offer to $28 million a year for three years. That was enough for Cousins, who took less money to come to Minnesota.

He explains it like this:

“How much should I make it about the money?” Cousins asks rhetorically. “As a retired player looking back do you wish you had made more money or you had won more games? … The hope would be that this isn’t a decision for two or three years. This is a decision for decades. It could be a place where we end up staying and raising our kids. This is a life-altering decision.”

*Rather humorously, when Cousins decides he’s committing to the Vikings he can’t get ahold of any of his closest loved ones to tell them. He calls his wife, mom and sister and gets voicemail each time. (His wife is in Cousins’ phone as “The Good Lady,” which we can see as he tries to call her).

Finally he decides to call an AAA automotive representative he had been bantering with earlier in the week to break the news.

*When Washington traded for Alex Smith, Cousins was in Minneapolis for Super Bowl week. The news, Cousins said, “came out of left field. No one had told me. No one from the Redskins had called to say it might happen or warn me.”

*Of his young son Cooper, Cousins amusingly muses at one point to his wife, Julie, “I wish we could raise him to have a British accent. That would be so cool.”

You can watch the full video here:

Zach Parise thought the Wild would make big moves this summer

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where it’s OK to admit to things that surprise you. Let’s get to it:

*Wild forward Zach Parise had an interesting recent interview with ESPN’s Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski in which Parise addressed the Wild GM change and his health.

Disclaimer: When quoting someone from an interview that I neither participated in nor saw, my default is to not try to read too much into what they said. Without an understanding of body language and tone, it’s harder to say exactly what someone meant.

That said, Parise had at least a few answers that seem pretty clear-cut. Namely: When asked about new GM Paul Fenton — just the third GM Parise has played for in addition to Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey and Chuck Fletcher with the Wild — Parise noted that Lamoriello was very hands-on. He added:

Chuck, I felt like, was more passive. Wasn’t around the room as much. We’ll see what Paul will be like. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell unless you’re there. But obviously there haven’t been any major personnel changes.”

That led naturally to a follow-up about whether Parise was surprised by the lack of moves. To that, he said:

I think everyone thought there was going to be [big moves]. We see the rumors, too. I don’t know what happens on those phone calls. Maybe someone didn’t like something, or whatnot. It’s always easier said than done. Everyone would love to trade four or five guys for a first-line center.”

Again, at the risk of inferring too much it sounds like Parise is disappointed (at least somewhat) in the lack of major offseason moves. He is, after all, 34. He says he’s fully healthy (both back and sternum). Parise has seven (!) years left on his contract, but realistically his window for being a major contributor on a contending team is shorter than that time span.

When asked about the Wild’s ability to contend for a Stanley Cup this year, Parise gave a practical answer that started with “The West is tough” and ended with “we’ll see.”

Making a hasty trade isn’t going to solve the Wild’s problems, but it doesn’t sound like Parise is very confident that running things back with essentially the same group is the solution, either.

*I took a tour of Allianz Field on Tuesday. Minnesota United’s new home is about three-fourths complete, with the expectation that all the outside work will be finished before the winter. With an opening about six months away, there is plenty left to be done, but one very cool thing already in place: a lot of the seats, installed in multiple team colors.

I posted a decent number of pictures from the tour on Twitter, and at least a few of you have used them to locate where you will be sitting in 2019.

*Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is pushing player safety as a reason to advocate FOR an 18-game regular season in the NFL. That’s a new one. It doesn’t have anything to do with more money, right?

Another year like last season? That would be worst outcome for Wolves

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where it’s always a good idea to check your smoke alarm batteries every year. Let’s get to it:

*Tom Thibodeau’s goodwill tour — and I say that seriously, not mockingly — has included recently a long sit-down with Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan and an appearance Monday at the State Fair.

In particular in that public setting at the Great Minnesota Get Together, Thibodeau revealed his mindset going into this season.

Basically, it’s this: The Wolves need to win at a higher rate and achieve more than they did last year in order to keep their core intact. And the path to doing that is keeping Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns healthy while hoping offseason additions help boost a woeful bench.

Worried as rumors continue to swirl about Butler and what he might do as a free agent after this season? Don’t, Thibodeau says, because none of those rumors are coming straight from Butler’s mouth. Instead, focus on this:

“The winning will take care of that,” Thibs said at the Fair.

This is the time of year to be optimistic, but it is also true that 365 days a year there is a need to be practical. So let’s break the Wolves season into three possible outcomes:

*They win, say, 55 games, get a top-four seed in the Western Conference and win a playoff series — and they look energized in doing so. Butler, who can sign an extension with the Wolves for more money than any other team can give him next offseason, is convinced by the combination of cash and belief in the future that he should make Minnesota his long-term home.

*They play at a pace pretty similar to last year’s and are on a trajectory to win around 45 games and grab one of the last playoff spots in the West, where they almost surely will lose again in the first round.

*Everything falls apart, the energy is bad and by the midpoint of the season it’s clear that this train is going nowhere good.

Outcome one is clearly the best-case scenario of the three. And for reasons Thibodeau outlined — the starters were actually quite good last year, and a rebuilt bench this year could help significantly — it’s plausible this happens.

But of the other two outcomes, I would argue that the worst is the middle ground. On a recent podcast, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski crystallizes the reason:

“Jimmy Butler in Minnesota. Who knows how it starts out this season there,” Wojnarowski said. “But they may have to look at doing something with him. If they don’t have a commitment with him do they have to look at doing something with him by the trade deadline? Do they risk losing him for nothing?”

If the Wolves fall apart early, the decision is easy: Deal Butler and try to get as much back as possible from a team convinced that it would have an inside track on re-signing him.

If the Wolves are hanging around the No. 7 or 8 seed in February, the decision is complicated: Keep pushing and hope for a strong finish and playoff run that sways Butler? Or risk a quick one-and-done (or missing the playoffs altogether) and possibly losing Butler for nothing?

Last year, it was important to break the 13-season playoff drought. The Wolves won 47 games, which was an achievement. That exact same season this year, though, would be the worst-case scenario.

* ran a piece on the biggest potential weaknesses for every NFL team, and not surprisingly this is their conclusion about the Vikings:

The worry: Kirk Cousins won’t be as adept as Case Keenum at covering for a position of weakness.

Exec unfiltered: “Their offensive line and specifically the tackle spots are really concerning. They will go as far as that will take them. It was interesting to watch their offensive line against Jacksonville’s defensive line in preseason. Kirk Cousins looked uncomfortable. Their tackles are just not starting-caliber tackles and that could bite them.”

*Among the many Arizona sports figures slated to be part of the memorial service for John McCain is Minnesota native and longtime Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald.

Pro Football Focus: Vikings center Jones was elite pass blocker last year

Because you can never read too much about a late addition offensive lineman acquired for a seventh-round pick, I’d like to add some words about the newest member of the Vikings, center Brett Jones.

*Most importantly, this was a much-needed move. As a vocal and frequent critic of how the Vikings handled the offensive line this offseason, I feel it’s only fair to offer credit where it’s due.

The Vikings and Rick Spielman were able to add what appears to be a starting-caliber lineman — not a star, but not someone from the scrap heap, either — for the reasonable price of $2.9 million in 2018 and a seventh-round draft pick next season.

If Pat Elflein has an extended stay on the sidelines — remember, he said in early June that he thought he’d be ready for the start of training camp, and here we are a month beyond that checkpoint with no clear timetable for return — Jones is a reasonable option at center.

If Elflein comes back sooner rather than later, Jones appears to have the positional versatility to play guard and could either slide into a starting spot or be a valuable safety net.

Maybe Spielman was fortunate someone like this was available. It doesn’t erase neglecting to draft an immediately ready lineman a few months ago, but it does diminish to a degree the likelihood that the offensive line will be a 2016-esque disaster.

*Mike Zimmer likes to take shots at Pro Football Focus, and it’s not without reason. There is a tendency for some (myself included) to hold the grading and evaluation used by PFF to a higher standard than perhaps deserved. The site is useful, but it’s not gospel.

That said, this is a case where the Vikings (who do pay attention to PFF, regardless of what they say publicly) should be happy with what the site has to say about their new guy.

Jones, who started 13 games last season with the Giants (12 at center, one at guard), graded out as the site’s 15th-best center among players with at least 500 snaps. That’s firmly middle-of-the-pack, and while it’s not something over which to turn cartwheels it is a reasonable sample size offering evidence of his steadiness.

Run blocking was not Jones’ strength, where he graded out with an efficiency of 60 (tied for No. 21), but pass blocking? His 82.1 grade was fourth-best among NFL centers last season (and considerably better than Elflein, I might add, who was No. 27 at 65.4).

Jones had more pass blocking snap counts (605 to 522) than Elflein, but he allowed just 10 pressures and two sacks last year. Elflein allowed 24 total pressures, including four sacks.

*That’s not to say Jones should take Elflein’s job regardless of health because, again, the nuances of line play are tricky and PFF is not the only authority.

But it is notable that he’s proven adept at pass blocking. My good friend Tom Linnemann, who has played the game (TM), always says pressure up the middle causes the greatest discomfort for a quarterback. I’m not sure if new Vikings QB Kirk Cousins feels the same way, but I do know that — again, per PFF — he tied for the NFL lead last season with nine interceptions while facing pressure.

Bottom line is that Jones looks like a real asset, and for $2.9 million the Vikings bought a better chance to protect their $84 million investment.

In praise of ex-Viking Ryan Longwell and confidence in a kicker

Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where we can already feel a storm brewing. Let’s get to it:

*The Brad Childress Era will be remembered for many things, but one underrated strong move Childress made came at the outset of his tenure.

In 2006, the Vikings targeted kicker Ryan Longwell in free agency and nabbed him early. He was coming off a subpar year with the Packers (just 74.1 percent accuracy on field goals), but he was set to turn 32 before the 2006 season — plenty young in kicker years.

The volatility of the Mike Tice Era was evident in many phases, and kicking was chief among them. The Vikings had four different primary kickers in the last four years he was head coach: Paul Edinger in 2005, Morten Andersen in 2004, Aaron Elling in 2003 and Gary Anderson in 2002.

Longwell came in and immediately established order. He made the game-winner with a minute left in his debut and an overtime winner the next week. For the season, he made 21 of 25. He ended up kicking with the Vikings for six seasons, making 86 percent of his field goals in that time.

Just as important as that 86 percent: When Longwell trotted onto the field, you had 100 percent confidence that he was going to make the kick. He didn’t always do it, but roughly 6 of every 7 times he did. The misses felt like aberrations.

A reliable kicker — one who inspires confidence — is one of those “don’t know what you have until it’s gone” kind of things. It must be an incredibly nice feeling for a head coach. Even just watching on TV, it changes your nerves and perception of a game.

Blair Walsh replaced Longwell in 2012, and for a couple years the transition was seamless. Walsh was masterful as a rookie, including 10 of 10 makes from 50-plus yards. He was good in 2013 (just four misses). But then came 2014, with nine missed field goals. Then 2015, with four missed extra points. By the time the playoffs rolled around, it seemed as though Walsh had his problems under control. Still, if you watched, you had nagging doubts. When he hooked that 27-yarder against Seattle, all confidence in him was lost.

Walsh’s 2016 season was a nightmare. Kai Forbath came in and did fine. His field goal accuracy was not the problem. Indeed, Forbath ranks in the top 10 all-time in the NFL in that department. But in 1.5 seasons with the Vikings, he missed eight extra points.

When Forbath walked onto the field, did you expect him to make the kick? Certainly not to the degree you expected Longwell to make his for those six seasons.

That feeling, and Forbath’s kickoffs, led the Vikings to draft Daniel Carlson in the fifth round in 2018. Carlson won the kicking battle when Forbath was cut last week, making him the Vikings’ third different kicker to win the job in the last three seasons, but in his first preseason game after officially winning the job Carlson missed twice.

Maybe that will prove to be a meaningless hiccup or a teachable moment on the way to a long, successful and confidence-inspiring career with the Vikings. It’s a trust he’ll have to earn. It’s one that doesn’t come easily, though it’s one that can easily be taken for granted as many of us probably did with Longwell.

*FanGraphs would tell you that Joe Mauer has far exceeded his career earnings in value to the Twins over the course of his career.

Maybe once this season is over, and Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million contract is finished, fans can finally get over the fact that Mauer made $23 million per season. Nah, who are we kidding?

The U.S. Open tennis major has “asked some of the biggest names in women’s tennis to come together in support of ‘SheIS,’ a new initiative which aims to increase awareness of women in sports.” They’ve also found an ally in men’s tennis star Andy Murray.